When the credits ran for THE RAID: REDEMPTION someone behind me in the theater whispered, “Man, I wish The Hunger Games had been like that!”
I kind of agree with them.
The Raid: Redemption is the kind of movie that grabs the viewer by the balls from the get-go, squeezes really hard, and refuses to let go until the finish. How much one likes the movie is going to depend on how much one likes having their balls squeezed in the first place. In other words, not everyone likes hyper-violent action movies, but for those that do, this film is a blast (at this point, it is probably best to abandon the ball-squeezing analogy).
Any one of the action sequences in this flick would have made the film worth of the price of admission; fight choreography this good rarely occurs in a movie for even a singular scene, and yet The Raid relentlessly hits you with it from start to finish, leaving you both exhausted and exhilarated. And even within the action sequences, time and time again the fight would seem to hit it’s high point, only to KEEP GOING and leave one’s jaw on the floor.
Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans directed this Indonesian movie, which sets itself up quickly and economically in the opening minutes as a SWAT team of distinctive badasses is sent to raid the safe house of a ruthless mobster waiting on the top floor. Of course (it IS an action movie!), to get to him they must first fight their way through countless thugs blocking their path. An easy set-up for some great over-the-top fighting, it nevertheless brutally uses the premise to its fullest potential.
The first half-hour or so of the film relies on gunplay, at which point the focus of the fighting shifts towards martial arts (and martial art sequences, admittedly, are not for everyone). The fights are both mind-blowingly ferocious and inventive, and the film does a brilliant job of not only staging the battles, but also allowing them to play out in front of camera without the frenetic editing style that has plagued too many Hollywood action films of late. Looking through the credits, it seems like every stuntman in Asia must have been employed to pull it all off.
It all does get a bit ridiculous at times, even if that is sort of the point. How are the characters able to stand up after so many blows to the head on a concrete wall? Is everyone in Indonesia a five-star expert in martial arts? Are they born with it, or is there a mandatory training school they all enter at age eight?
The bottom line…The Raid: Redemption is a rocking time at the movies, so long as you are the type to enjoy a good action flick. Rarely do I say that a film does not need a lot of story to stand on it’s own (and there actually are a couple good plot twists hidden beneath the bullets and fists), but if ever there were a movie to rely solely on execution of the action, this is it.